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Sermon for November 6, 2016

1 John 3:1-3 (All Saints’ Day—Observed)

“Fellowship with God”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

November 6, 2016

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Epistle reading recorded in 1 John 3:

1See what kind of the love the Father has given to us so that we should be called children of God, and we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He should be revealed we will be like Him for we will see Him just as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies Himself, just as He is pure.

 

           One of the fun things about Halloween is dressing up like someone or something other than what you really are. For a little while, you get to enter the world of imagination and become Captain America or Darth Vader or even Martin Luther! As we examine our Epistle lesson this morning, God’s Word declares us to be children of God by grace through faith in Jesus. But far too often we “dress up” like, or rather, we live and act like, someone other than a child of God.

          Yes, it’s true. You and I at times live and look more like the sinners that we are instead of living and acting like the children of God that we are in Jesus Christ. The sinful nature still clings to us even after we believe and trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Didn’t Jesus die for our sins? Didn’t He win our forgiveness? Yes and yes! But until the completion of all things on the day when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead, we are both saints and sinners at the same time. Martin Luther explained it this way, “For even though we have attained remission of sin, we still have the old Adam hanging around our necks and therefore sin daily. Sin has not yet been purged from our nature; neither is the devil dead, who provokes our flesh and blood to every evil.”[1] With His perfect obedience Christ has covered all our sins which stick to us throughout our earthly life. God does not take our sinfulness into account. Even though you and I remain sinners to the grave, we are regarded by God as “upright and are pronounced righteous through faith,” because of the saving work of Jesus Christ” (FC:SD III.22)[2]

          But we don’t always live righteously. We don’t always act in ways that demonstrate that we are the forgiven children of God in Christ. We curse, swear, and use profanity. You and I have been known to covet, having unhealthy desires for that which belongs to someone else. There’s no one here that can say he or she has never cheated or stolen or has never lied or never spoken about someone behind their back in gossip. Like a row of dominoes, God’s commandments topple because of our failure to do what God has asked of us and because of our all-too-eager desire to do the very things which the Lord forbids.

          And we know it! We know it because there is that hateful guilt that we feel. We begin to say to ourselves, “I’m a Christian. How could I have possibly done that to her?” “I’m a child of God. How could I have said that to my own father?” There are those thoughts, words, and deeds of which we are ashamed and we feel like they are hanging over our heads. “How could God want anything to do with me now after what I have done, after what I have said, after what I have thought?” Maybe you feel, more often than not, your sin, the Law of God, and the devil hanging on your neck. You feel oppressed under these heavy burdens that you are forced to drag around with you day in and day out.

          How so much more precious do the words of St. John become for us when we know and feel our sinfulness! “See what kind of the love the Father has given to us so that we should be called children of God, and we are.” You are God’s child, no doubt about it. You are a child of God because God the Son has made you a child of the heavenly Father. It is an objective fact. The one-of-a-kind Son of God came and lived among us sinners. He was truly one of us—fully human—yet without sin, perfect God and perfect Man (Heb. 4:15), indeed, the perfect substitute for sinful humanity to take our place under God’s judgment and wrath against our sins. As the once-for-all perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world, Jesus the Son suffered and died on a cross, shedding His holy, precious blood to cleanse you from your sins before God our Father. It is the blood of Jesus shed for you on the tree of the cross that cleanses or purifies you from all our sins. It is the blood of Jesus poured out for you on the cross that removes the guilt and stain of your sin from you.

          Because of your baptism into Jesus’ death and resurrection, you have been given faith in Christ by God the Holy Spirit so that you trust in Him as your only Savior from sin. That saving faith receives the forgiveness of all your sins which Christ won for you. You are truly justified, “declared righteous,” by God the Father because of the merits and saving work of Jesus for you in His death and resurrection. By God’s gracious action in Jesus and by the power and authority of His divine Word, you are in fact children of God. Of that, there should not be any doubt.

But until the day when Jesus returns, the sinful flesh still clings to you and me. Thus, we are sinner-saints that continually return to our baptismal faith each day as we die to sin through the forgiveness which Jesus gives us by His blood and as we rise again with Him to the new life of faith and good works that God the Holy Spirit empowers in our lives through the Gospel. Dr. Luther put it like this, “We must still wait till the Last Day, when our old ‘bag of worms’ will finally be purified and come along, too. Now the flesh still clings to us, and our soul is still languishing in a dark prison, so that it cannot see the glory of our homeland and inheritance in heaven. When the prison is shattered, then we shall see it, not in part through a mirror darkly, but perfectly and face to face, as St. Paul says, 1 Corinthians 13:12.”[3]

You have something glorious to look forward to! Jesus is going to come again and bring to completion your salvation in body and soul! “We are children of God now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed,” writes John. Oh, but when it is revealed, what glory! What joy! Then, you and I will be like Jesus Christ. We will be glorified in body and soul. We will be pure as He is pure, without sin, holy. Listen to how the apostle Paul describes the Last Day when Jesus brings all things to completion: “So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. . . .  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. . . . Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:42-52 ESV). And that change means purification, glorification, in a perfect body and a perfect soul, face to face with God forever and ever. There will no longer be any sin. There will be no guilt. Satan will be destroyed as well as death itself.

The rights and privileges of being heirs of your heavenly Father are yours this very day. You are God’s children through Jesus Christ. All that belongs to Christ belongs to you because you are His brothers and sisters. When Jesus comes again in glory, you will be like Him. And as God’s beloved children, you are and will be forever alongside your Brother, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the purity and holiness of a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

Look forward, then, with the hope of faith to that day when you, along with all of God’s children who have lived and died with faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, are purified from sin forevermore. Look forward with the hope of faith to the perfect body and soul that will be yours in the Resurrection on the Last Day when you will be pure like Jesus. Today, by God’s declaration through His Gospel Word, your sins are forgiven. And on that unknown day to come, by God’s declaration, your sins will be no more as you enter His new creation alongside your Savior and Brother, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22: Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 22 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 177.

[2] The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, ed. Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000), 565.

[3] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 12: Selected Psalms I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 12 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 105–106.


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